URBANA – The student trustee from the Urbana campus will have the official vote in a year when the University of Illinois Board of Trustees will be setting future tuition rates and could deal with the Chief Illiniwek issue.
Nate Allen, 21, a senior in urban planning on the Urbana campus, was designated by Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Friday to have the official student vote on the board.
Student trustees on university governing boards have had the right to cast a binding vote since 1998, when then-Gov. Jim Edgar signed a measure giving them an official voice on the board.
For universities such as the University of Illinois with more than one campus, student trustees are elected from each campus, but only one has the binding vote each year. The other two cast advisory votes. The governor chooses which student has the binding vote each year.
Allen was elected by students on the Urbana campus in March, and he was sworn in as a student trustee at the board's July meeting.
Because the governor just designated the student with the official vote last week, the three student trustees all cast advisory votes at the board's July and September meetings. That is something Allen would like to see changed.
He said he would like to have the campus with the binding vote continue to have that vote until the governor designates one of the new student trustees, even though the terms of the former student trustees have expired and they have been replaced by the new students.
Allen cast an advisory vote in July in favor of offering insurance to the same-sex domestic partners of UI employees.
This year, the board will discuss how to set future tuition rates as the "truth-in-tuition" measure goes into effect next fall. It will guarantee the same tuition rate for all four years of college for each new class of freshmen.
"It's important that we plan ahead financially, and so I'd rather be a little on the surplus than see more classes cut," Allen said. "I think there is extra pressure on the university to look a few years down the road. It's also important to let the state know this as well ... that if (legislators) want a fixed tuition rate, they need to take that into account in the future in setting the overall budget. It's hard for students to make up that difference."
Board members have not said when they might deal with the Chief Illiniwek controversy, but Allen said he has seen letters coming in every week to trustees on the issue and the amount of pressure the board members face.
"To me, the biggest question, whether you're pro-Chief or anti-Chief, is, is this good for the university, when the board of trustees has spent this much time on a mascot," he said. "It wasn't the decision of these board members to take on the issue, yet they're faced with it when, in my opinion, there are so many more important issues for them to take on."
Allen said he met with his fellow student trustees from the Chicago and Springfield campuses this summer to discuss the issues important to them.
He said he plans to confer with them before casting his vote on the major issues that come before the board.
"Hopefully we can come up with a consensus," he said.
You can reach Jodi Heckel at (217) 351-5216 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.